Singapore University of Social Sciences

Critical Readings

Critical Readings (CCO103)


CCO103 Critical Reading enables students to develop critical reading skills through the Formalistic approach to texts of a variety of literary genres . The ability to read critically is a key step towards attaining strategic critical thinking abilities.Works of literature are useful in this respect as they emerge out of the confluence of various factors, such as language constructions, figurative composition, and social, historical and aesthetic contexts. The emphasis of this course is on rhetorical and narrative structures.The discrete genres of the course readings will also elicit engagement with notions of textual features, generation of meaning and intent, as well as other literary-rhetorical techniques. These will be done through processes of analytical reflection.In turn, these will translate into skills of composition that can form the foundation for students’ intellectual needs in areas of writing and other modes of academic articulation.Students will learn how to:• Recognise the basic devices and techniques used in the construction of a literary work • Understand the distinctive features of literary forms and genres• Discern the various ways of narrative organisation• Respond to literary texts actively, not passively• Recognise the value of ambiguity• Form inter-disciplinary connections between literary writing (and the arts, in general) and other aspects of real-world experience: society, economy, environment … etc.The course starts by introducing students to the basics of literary studies, with a view of providing them with the correct vocabulary with which to commence the critical reading process.Students will explore the works of key writers and thinkers in the literary tradition, and apply specific reading strategies to these texts. The in-class sessions will require students to articulate their engagement with these texts by raising and responding to critical questions, as well as to examine the narrative and structural constitution of each text.The underlying belief here is that an ability to identify the inherent complexity of textual issues – that is, asking the correct questions – is the key to arriving at critical positions that transcend the dependence on stable meaning.In this regard, the primary texts used for this course involve a wide range of critical and literary elements that are open to reader response.They embody a variety of considerations: historical and cultural significance, aesthetic merit and literary refinement. The question of their respective relevance to the student-reader will form the basis of the critical encounter with each text.Significantly, these texts are also selected because they contain many useful philosophical ideas that can open up to fruitful and rewarding critical discussions. Thematically, the works are distinctive for their embodiment of a variety of ethical ambiguities, over which scholarly debate remains active. This will set the intellectual backdrop against which critical reading and healthy scepticism may emerge.

Level: 1
Credit Units: 5
Presentation Pattern: -


  • Literary Prose and A Modest Proposal
  • Mechanics of Argument
  • Ethics of poverty
  • Drama and King Oedipus
  • Ethics of choice
  • Poetry and The Ballad of Reading Gaol
  • Crime and punishment
  • The Novel and Life of Pi
  • Narrative and plot devices
  • Reading and questioning
  • Ambiguity vs ambivalence
  • Storytelling and ethics

Learning Outcome

  • Identify the two main types of narrative point of view
  • Discuss the modes of narrative organisation
  • Explain rhetorical motivation
  • Identify argument techniques using critical “Thinking and Reasoning”
  • Illustrate arguments from textual evidence
  • Show inter-disciplinary correspondence between literary writings and real-world experience
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